Primary Authority: a guide for businesses with a co-ordinated primary authority

Businesses which are members of trade associations or other business groups can benefit from Primary Authority.

Primary Authority enables businesses to access regulatory advice on trading standards, environmental health and fire safety legislation through a co-ordinator, such as a trade association or franchisor, which has a legal partnership with a local authority (known as the primary authority).

The advice is tailored to the needs of the businesses in the group, making it simpler and easier for them to comply with legislation.

As a business with a co-ordinated primary authority, provided that you follow the advice you are given, you can be confident that you’re complying with the law. Your business should also be protected from enforcement action for the regulatory areas the advice covers.

Is a co-ordinated arrangement best for your business?

Any business can participate in Primary Authority, whether you’re established or just starting out, on your own or in a group.

Co-ordinated arrangements are suitable for businesses which are members of groups such as franchises and trade associations. Businesses in such groups will usually operate in a similar way, and face similar regulatory challenges.

If your business has more individual regulatory challenges you may prefer to set up your own partnership with a local authority. This is called a direct partnership.

Find out more about direct partnerships.

The role of the co-ordinator

Your co-ordinator liaises with the primary authority on your behalf, including requesting appropriate Primary Authority Advice and inspection plans from the primary authority.

The co-ordinator should make sure that you:

  • understand what Primary Authority is and how it affects your business
  • have access to relevant Primary Authority Advice or inspection plans
  • are consulted on matters relevant to the direction of the partnership

The co-ordinator should also include your business on an up-to-date list of its members and ensure this is available to enforcement officers who request it.

Your own role

To gain the benefits of Primary Authority you should:

  • follow any relevant Primary Authority Advice you are given, as this will help your business comply with the law
  • inform your co-ordinator of any change to your business, for example if you change from a sole trader to a limited company
  • help your co-ordinator understand the regulatory needs of your business
  • inform any local authority enforcement officer from the environmental health, trading standards or fire safety service who contacts your business that you have a co-ordinated primary authority
  • show the enforcement officer any relevant Primary Authority Advice you are following

Primary Authority Advice

Your co-ordinator works with your primary authority to create Primary Authority Advice that is tailored to your type of business and that you can rely on.

Primary Authority Advice can help you understand:

  • how legal requirements apply to your business
  • how you can achieve compliance
  • whether the controls you have in place are acceptable

Provided that you follow the Primary Authority Advice, your business should be protected against the risk of enforcement action from authorities that have different views on what you should be doing to achieve compliance.

Inspection plans

Your primary authority may be able to provide an inspection plan that will govern the way your business is inspected by enforcement officers.

Enforcement action

Provided that you follow the Primary Authority Advice you’ve been given, you shouldn’t need to worry about enforcement action for the issue that the advice relates to. Your primary authority can block the enforcement action if it conflicts with Primary Authority Advice. There are some limited exemptions from this requirement to notify proposed action, for example where urgent action is required.

It is important that you tell any relevant enforcement officer that contacts your business that you have a co-ordinated primary authority and are following Primary Authority Advice, as an enforcement officer may not know this.

What does it cost?

The cost of your participation in Primary Authority will usually be included in any membership fees you pay to the group. Remember that if your subscription lapses, you may no longer be covered by Primary Authority.

What next?

To find out more about how Primary Authority could benefit your business, speak to the co-ordinator of your group.

If you think a direct partnership might be better for your business you can read our guide Primary Authority: a guide for business.

Published 1 October 2017